Tag Archives: GoogleFriendConnect

Birth of the Social Web: Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect Now Available to All

December 4, 2008. Today may be remembered as the birth of the Social Web, as two major projects aimed at turning the Web social emerged from their restricted beta periods for general availability, Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect. Together, these two major events sound the death knell for the walled garden phase of social networking. Early reactions to the news are quick to frame this as a head-to-head battle between Google and Facebook, but the truth requires a look at the details, and I think something much more profound is happening…

First, the similarities. Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect share the same basic vision of the Social Web. Any site can become social, without having to build up its own social network. Users should be able to access those social features without having to experience the pain of usernames, passwords, uploading a photo, filling out a profile, importing an address book, and re-friending the people they’ve already connected with elsewhere. And, activity streams out to web-wide lifestream aggregators should become important engines of social discovery and growth for the site.

Now to the differences. One major difference between these two offerings is the technology under the hood. Google Friend Connect is built on the “open stack,” leveraging building blocks like OpenID, OAuth, and OpenSocial, whereas Facebook Connect is built on Facebook’s proprietary stack. A second difference is target market. Facebook has clearly focused on major sites, like Digg, Hulu, and CitySearch, and while simple implementations can be done with very little coding, most will involve a bit more complex development. Google, in contrast, has explicitly targeted the “long tail” of the web, sites that would never dream of writing their own social code; the focus of Google Friend Connect is to help these sites become social by cutting-and-pasting a few lines of javascript. The third major difference is one of strategy. Facebook Connect is all about making Facebook more useful to its users all over the Web. Google Friend Connect, on the other hand, is all about making the Web more social, with an approach that incorporates other social networks. For example, the current release integrates not only Orkut, but also Plaxo. (And recall that the earliest version also included Facebook, until Facebook shut that down.)

I’ve been playing around with Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect all along the way while these services were being carefully tested and refined prior to today’s formal rollout. I like them both, but see lots of room for improvement. But that’s to be expected; this is a major shift in how the Web will work, and there’s a lot of complexity under the covers. Today marks the birth of the Social Web, and we should expect to see lots of rapid progress for this newborn.

For those who haven’t checked out Google Friend Connect yet, I’m including a few screenshots…

Signing up via Google Friend Connect

Turning on Sharing to Plaxo

Signed in with a single click

Activity shows up in Plaxo!
My activity showing up in Plaxo

Oh, and you can check out the “Dive Bomber” site I used for these screenshots here.

Update: I just realized that I can now declare victory on the prediction I made for 2008, a prediction I made on December 6, 2007!

Update: The new episode of The Social Web TV is now up, with Joseph Smarr and I addressing the question, “Facebook Connect vs. OpenID?”:

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: